Advocacy Update — April 2014: Protecting the Sick From False Cures, Advancing Human Rights at the UN

May 1, 2014

Welcome to the Office of Public Policy’s monthly Advocacy Update. The Office of Public Policy (OPP) is the Washington, D.C. political arm of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). Our mandate is to advocate for public policy based on reason, science, and secular values. This includes lobbying at all levels of government — Congress, the Administration, and the United Nations — to promote and defend separation of church and state, the role of scientific evidence and secular humanist ethics in policymaking, and basic civil and political rights.

This newsletter will update you on some of our activity over the past month.

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FEDERAL

- On April 16, a coalition of physicians, medical officials, scientists, and public policy experts joined the Center for Inquiry in expressing to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) their deep concern over the FDA’s recent decision to allow cancer patients access to unapproved drugs provided by Texas-based doctor Stanislaw Burzynski. As we write in our letter, “The FDA has an obligation to minimize the damage being done by purveyors of false medical treatments who harm others, such as Dr. Burzynski.” You can read our news announcement here, and download our letter here

- CFI and several like-minded organizations continue to lobby against a bill in the Senate that, as written, would create a broad religious exemption from the health insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act. CFI has also issued an action alert urging people to contact their U.S. Senator to oppose this proposal, which has not yet been voted on, but could reach the Senate floor at any moment. You can take action here.

STATE

- On April 22, CFI issued an action alert urging Michigan residents to urge members of the state Senate Committee on Finance to oppose proposals that would permit taxpayers to donate to the Boy Scouts through a box on their income tax return. 

- Additionally, CFI-Michigan is beginning to make plans for a civic day this summer. We will let you know when details are finalized.

- CFI’s legal department has called upon the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office of Vero Beach, Florida to cease its sponsorship of a Christian prayer breakfast, an event the Sheriff’s Office endorsed and provided state-funded printing services at no charge, which clearly violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the religious freedom provisions of the Florida Constitution.  

INTERNATIONAL

- Between March 3-28, CFI’s volunteer representatives addressed a wide range of global human rights issues at the 25th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. CFI representatives delivered statements on the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, the crackdown on free speech in Bangladesh, the spread of harmful religious practices against girls, the brutal human rights record in Saudi Arabia, and violence and discrimination against LGBT persons in Russia and Uganda based on “traditional values,” which are often used as a cover for religion. You can read more about our work at the Human Rights Council, and download all of our statements, here.

- On  April 1, CFI joined 11 religious and human rights leaders and organizations in urging House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to bring to the floor for a vote a resolution urging the government of Burma to respect international human rights standards and end its persecution of Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities. You can read our news announcement here.

- On April 3, CFI joined more than a dozen individuals and groups in writing a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him designate Pakistan as a “Country of Particular Concern” in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act.

- On April 23, OPP Director Michael De Dora attended a special meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York City with Sheikha Alya Ahmed Seif Al-Thani, who serves as the Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations for Qatar. The discussion focused on Qatar’s role in advancing freedom of religion and belief at the UN. 

- We have continued to work with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom on behalf of secularists and skeptics who face life-threatening blasphemy and similar charges in their home countries regarding freedom of belief or expression. We will keep you updated if and when anything happens.

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